Bruce's Beach: Discovering the Coastal Suite Life

Bruce's Beach: Discovering the Coastal Suite Life
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA BERRYMON @coolin_caughtit
Black Americans have been shunned from relishing the California dream of beach vacations since the Jim Crow era but, imagine if such luxurious places like Bruce's Beach were left to their rightful owners?  

It was not until recently that the Bruce's Beach property would soon be returned to the original Black owners, Willa and Charles Bruce. This scenic parcel of Manhattan Beach estate formerly functioned as a beach resort that was unfortunately seized and condemned by the city. But now that such property is being returned to its rightful owners, the public cannot help but consider the endless and beautiful opportunities and advancements the business would have made if it had not been for the deprivation of their purchased land.

To plunge into the endless possibilities of the blissful landscape, we must first acknowledge the racist past of the city that has made the current news worth commemorating. In the early 1900s, many Black families were expelled out of Manhattan Beach. When Charles and Willa Bruce purchased land for twelve hundred dollars in 1912, they added other parcels to create a beach retreat that catered to Black residents. During these times, Black residents did not have many alternatives to enjoy their vacation along the California coast due to enforced Jim Crow laws. Still, such accommodation promoted inclusivity and chances for Black leisure. The elegant dance halls, cafes, and bathhouses further influenced other Black families to purchase adjacent land and created their ocean-view retreat.

Unfortunately, these resorts became significant targets for the white supremacist groups and civilians of the area to compromise the safety of Black visitors. Though the Bruces remained unphased and persisted in operating their enclave, such hostility created ever-increasing pressure and difficulties for their business. In 1929, their property was seized by the Manhattan Beach City Council, despite the families suing for being victims of a racially motivated removal campaign. Though having received compensation for the damages, the Bruces and other displaced families were still powerless to reopen their resort anywhere in the town. Since then, this land has been used as a city park and has borne various names over the years, though named "Bruce's Beach" as a hollow gesture toward the family.
The rich and deep history of institutional racism and its punitive suffering to families for generations makes the efforts to transfer Bruce's Beach back to the Bruce family even more fulfilling. Aside from the generational wealth, there are endless possibilities to which the resort would be in if not halted by the city. Would this beachfront be flourishing and filled with Black families in need of a vacation? Would Black communities enjoy the leisure of soaking up the sun while sitting oceanside? The answer is yes!

In the last ten years, there has been a dramatic upheaval in support of Black businesses and companies, so of course, such resorts dedicated to the Black families would be crowded with tourists waiting to shop and invest in longtime wealth builders. In relation, the current support of the Black resorts would also strengthen the opportunities of meaningful savings, credit building, and property ownership for Black communities. Fortunately, Bruce's Beach could have been one of those places! It would persist in providing for the Black beachgoers who crave to live the California dream for a couple of weeks and experience the jasmine and coastal live oak overlooking the sea. Its three acres of land would be the perfect place for many to sit on the ocean side and soak up the wonderful sun.

Bruce's Beach would obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop further and improve the leisure site, particularly considering the property being worth up to seventy-two million dollars as of March 2021. The additional luxury oceanfront homes and manicured homes going for eighteen million would further attract more affluent Black families that desire a sweet getaway while driving up market value. This wealth and current cost would have only tripled if the seaside business was not seized from the Bruces.

Generations of families would get the opportunity to travel hours to experience the charming lodge, the best cuisines, and the services at the resort. Currently renowned for having the best surfing waves in Southern California, Manhattan Beach would host many beach volleyball matches for visitors to enjoy. To imagine Black people laid out on the shore, enjoying virgin piña coladas, while enjoying the leisure of vacation and relaxation while Black children run across the shoreline brings joy to spring. Black people from all across the world would be able to enjoy the lavish beachfront resort, the picturesque beaches, luxurious shopping malls, and monumental buildings that were carved out for them to explore.

Allison Rose Jefferson's, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era further elaborates on reimaging such leisure and making it the center of conversation of the American dream that African American Californians and beyond were working towards in the early 1900s. This open and inclusive reality produces recreational sites and public spaces and marks such social spaces to broaden the understanding of Black leisure, Black life, and the struggles of integration during the early twentieth century. Portraying such fascinating yet forgotten sites, like Bruce's Beach, highlights the necessity of preserving and reclaiming these diverse African American localities that are underappreciated while demonstrating why they matter at all.

News of such property and financial gain of Bruce's Beach is a report that many within the family and beyond have been anticipating to call their own. We can no longer restrain the California dreams and opportunities for Black Americans because they have long strived and aspired to live the life that many of their white counterparts have robbed from them. Such stories of Bruce's Beach in Manhattan Beach, and many others untold, empower Black people to discover the joy of restoration and restoring the places they were once denied. Though many of us can solely assume what such leisure would be like, it is imperative to recognize that African Americans will one day get the fun in the sun and the memories of a vacation at Bruce's Beach that they deserve!

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